I recently read “The Little Things: Why You Really Should Sweat The Small Stuff” by Andy Andrews after it was recommended in an article I read.
While the author is a Christian, it’s not a Christian book per se. It’s a fast and enjoyable read. It is full of wisdom, and witty observations about life. The author talks about how the small details often make a big difference in the overall outcome. I’m not a detail person, and I sometimes don’t see the value of being so nit-picky. But Andrews tells us a few stories where it mattered a whole lot.
For instance, the battle of Waterloo in 1815. You probably know that it’s where Napoleon was decisively defeated. But did you know that the French were initially winning? Early in the day, it seemed as if Napoleon would prevail, but then the tide turned. And it was a small detail that made all the difference.
That day, the French troops didn’t have nails in their pockets. Someone forgot to bring them to the front lines. Why does that matter? The usual practice of the day was to overrun the enemy’s cannons and then “spike the guns.” The soldiers pounded a headless nail into the narrow fusehole of the cannon. The hot bronze would melt, close up the opening, and render the cannon useless.
The French cavalry overran the British guns, but had no nails to disable them. Later, the British re-took their gun positions and blew the French to bits! The lack of nails was a decisive factor in their loss.
What small detail do you or I forget that makes a big difference?
Andrews says: “Yes, everything you do matters. But everything you don’t do matters just as much. Every little thing you do – or don’t do – steers life onto a slightly different course.” (p. 49)
Another small thing Andrews talks about is choosing your perspective. He says it’s critical that you understand the difference between perception and perspective. Perception concerns what is. Perspective concerns our ability to direct what happens from that point forward, according to our interpretation of what is.
He says: “For example, suppose you perceive a situation as the worst thing that could have possibly happened. If you allow your perspective to match that perception, you also allow it to determine and limit your future. Therefore, and not surprisingly, by collapsing, complaining, and doing nothing, you allow your perception to maintain its accuracy forever. In effect, your perception was right on target, and without the power of a different perspective, the situation really was the worst thing that could have happened.” (p. 71)
Andrews tells us that we can choose our perspective. We can make choices to mine the “disaster rubble” for valuable lessons. We can choose to change gears and start fresh, utilizing different methods, while choosing to be grateful for the rare opportunity to know in advance what doesn’t work if the same situation presents itself again.
Choosing your perspective will also help you see the difference between what will work and what is the best. One of the most valuable lessons you can learn is that those two are rarely the same.
“Perspective is the only thing that can dramatically change the results without changing any of the facts.” (p. 72)
He also tells a fascinating story about a tribe of hostile Indians. They met an exploratory party of U.S. Cavalry, but were afraid to attack them because one of the soldiers demonstrated an unusual weapon. The Indians’ perception: here was a gun they had never seen. But the Indians’ perspective was that the troops were unbeatable, which wasn’t true.
In fact, the Indians were tricked by one air rifle that was never even pointed at them!
There’s more in this book than I can possibly summarize here. Another fascinating subject he explores are the steps for change, but I urge you to read it for yourself.
Wisdom is always worth having. Psalm 90:12 admonishes us to think about our lives: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”